Google Authenticator is an application that allows users to safely connect to their Google Account. It leverages 2-step verification, a security protocol that adds an extra layer of protection by requiring a user to enter a unique PIN, in addition to a username and password to verify that they are the owner of the account. Compatible with a variety of mobile devices, the app does not require a network connection and is actually recommended by Google to all users connecting to their account from a smartphone.
While Google Authenticator is far from being a big name on the mobile security market, it has generated more than 250,000 downloads. And with an upgrade of the app available, that number could start climbing even faster.
New Version, Same App … Kind Of
Google recently introduced a new version of Google Authenticator, version 2.15 to be specific. According to the company, it is the same great program, only with a new look and feel. The upgraded version is now available to all Gmail users as well as users of Google Apps who turn on the feature in their control panel. But while the new and improved version is being touted as an enhancement, there are some aspects that could actually put users at a slight disadvantage. That is, if they don’t know what to expect.
Instead of an update, Google Authenticator is a completely separate application, one that operates independently of its predecessor. This is very rare of newer software programs these days, especially web-based apps. Even personal computers running original versions of Windows XP are still receiving updates from Microsoft after all these years, which brings us back to Google Authenticator. Being that it is a different program altogether, users must treat it as so and remove the old version before installing the new one.
Uninstalling the old version of Google Authenticator first may seem like an extra step, but it actually prevents users from running in circles. Here’s why – if you install version two of the application without removing the old one and then launch it, the installation wizard will automatically prompt you to port over your existing tokens and then offer to uninstall the old version. Although you could very well stick with the current version, it is now officially outdated. Since it is outdated, it is no longer being updated, which means the security is much less reliable.
Some users have complained that the minimal differences in the first and second versions of Google Authenticator do not justify a whole new program. That may be the case but as the saying goes: “it is what it is”. Those using Google Authenticator to securely connect to their account would be wise to adopt the upgraded version. Failing to do so could make them vulnerable to the growing number of attacks targeting mobile users.